This is espionage well worth uncovering.

SPY SCHOOL SECRET SERVICE

From the Spy School series , Vol. 5

Only a few months after accidently blowing up the principal’s office at the CIA Academy of Espionage, 13-year-old Benjamin Ripley is back with another explosive assignment, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

With reliable intel that the evil organization SPYDER is plotting an assassination attempt against the president of the United States, Ben is handpicked to go undercover as a friend of the president’s son to stop the attack before it happens. In keeping with Spy School adventures past, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and Ben and his agent-in-training classmates find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes and hilarious secret operation to save the leader of the free world. While Gibbs largely sticks to the formula that readers have come to know and love, the setting takes on added importance in this installment, keeping the story fresh and adding depth to the otherwise lighthearted spy romp. As it’s peppered with entertaining historical trivia, readers may even learn a thing or two as they follow Ben from one Washington, D.C., landmark to the next. While Ben is white and the rest of the cast lacks significant racial diversity, their individual quirks and humor will likely appeal to middle-grade readers. Strong female characters like Ben’s crush, superspy-in-training Erica Hale, add a gender balance and strengthen the story.

This is espionage well worth uncovering. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7782-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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